29 October 2006

uncanny x-men

Family First supports cross-media changes, PM announces chaplains in schools. Anyone keen to draw a linkage between these two events? As ever, VVB supports a good conspiracy theory until it's disproven, life is more fun this way.

The chaplains will be government-approved. This constrains choice by schools (inconsistent with government mantra, no whiff of hypocrisy as these people can do no wrong). No Scientologists (good), no Falun Gong (eh?).

Real conspiracy theorists will see this as yet another component in remaking Australia as some form of a theocracy and in this respect I must point out the Rudds and co on the Labor side. We'll never be an Iran but the Enlightenment is taking a battering at the moment, it would seem.

Meanwhile, all media representatives could learn a lesson from Keysar Trad who likens the good Sheikh al-Hilaly to Jesus, then notes that Jesus was crucified because he was trying to "improve society" (no online link to be found yet). We are presumably being invited to draw some conclusions betwen the two events.

Yeah right. Time you took a long break as well Mr Trad, your denials and excuses have gone on long enough. People of good heart on both 'sides' don't need your particular brand of 'interpretation'.

red red wine

Probably should be red red beer, when you read about it.

It seems as if communism, or at least some semblance of a collectivist mentality, is returning - on a bicycle. Courtesy of the
RiotAct, which keeps me up to date with the not-quite-mainstream activities of our former home, and Loaded Dog, comes this story of the Rat Patrol.

Now, despite a
Manifesto which goes into substantial detail about the problematic situation brought on by unsustainable use of fossil fuel sources, particularly for personal transport, and as well the evils of rampant consumerism (as demonstrated, in this case, by the way the rampant consumerist movement has insinuated itself into the hitherto joyously Luddite pastime of cycling by inducing people to buy shiny clothing, vastly expensive bicycles and, if the early mornings are anything to go by, mega amounts of coffee), I suspect the whole shebang is more about this.

Of which I have a lovely new batch bubbling away downstairs - should be at its peak just in time for Christmas.

Mind you, if communism comes back with an manifesto that decrees compulsory beer consumption, I'll vote for it.

28 October 2006

losing my religion

That later. But on the Sheikh, a couple of points.

I'm no conservative, but as the
Australian Conservative points out, the sheikh has been preaching a form of hatred against all Australians, that is well beyond the pale and possibly actionable? Not sure how, but...

Rudd would like
the A-G to find out. Quite right. And as an aside, when was the last time the ABC led with a statement by the Opposition? Lefty bias!

I wonder what the sheikh's reaction to women protesting against him in public was? Even if they were covered up, surely that sort of display of empowerment must very upsetting to him. Good. His supposed apology had all the sincerity of my responses when Mum used to say, "But are you really sorry?

And I have no religion to lose, so any of the self-appointed intermediaries in any religion who want to threaten me with loss of some afterlife or being condemned to spending eternity at the Gold Coast (which is surely torture as much as waterboarding is) can go right ahead and make my day. Interestingly, in several conversations over the last few days with friends who do 'have' religion, they don't - publicly - disagree with my views on the 'evils' of religious intermediaries. Then again, maybe they are living their religion through being tolerant of opposing views, no matter how repulsive (although I am careful not to insult their religious beliefs themselves). In which case, more power to them as individuals.

Quick afterthought: maybe I am more conservative than I would like to think I am.

do it again

What I said earlier about the culture of spin and obfuscation. They all do it.

More later today or maybe tomorrow.

26 October 2006

the long and winding road

In the early to mid 1990s, Tim Harcourt was Chief Economist at the ACTU. Some years after, he became Chief Economist for Austrade and, in that capacity, he has a weekly column in the Business Review Weekly.

This week, his column starts:

There's no choice. As the prime minister has said, Australia has to export
more. And Australia needs more companies exporting.
Well, bugger me. The idea of exporting more never existed before that (insert appropriately offensive desription here) had it written for him to say. Funny, I can recall reading it several thousand times before 1996.

But we have to be reminded that unless the little **** says it, it doesn't exist. See my earlier post about governments mangling the language in pursuit of partisan ends. This is worse (of course, given who is involved!). Ultimate spoon-feeding of the electorate: look for the prime ministerial endorsement, look for the mention of him before believing.

Finally, and not necessarily to argue with (insert suitable expletive here) because everybody does it, but has he heard of

End of the h8ting.

talk talk

Via Ozpolitics and Personal Political, this article on the Bush administration's systematic demolition of the language in pursuit of partisan ends over Iraq should be an eye-opener. Regrettably it's not, mainly because we become so habituated to words losing their meaning. Read any of Don Watson's books or articles and you get a feeling for how widespread it is.

All governments do it. For a satirical insight into the achievements of the Blair regime in the UK, read Phillip Challinor's Curmudgeon, as he does regular piss-takes.

But it's serious too. As people lose confidence in the ability of governments to (a) do what is expected of them or (b) live up to people's ideals and/or satisfy all their wants, people will disengage from the political process (that is, of course, those who were involved. Many are not). So to the extent that governments increasingly 'communicate' in prepackaged phrases and slogans, there is so much emphasis on staying '
on message' and, finally, the truth gets obscured under multiple layers of euphemism, people just turn right off.

I'm at a loss to know how this might be turned around. It's very pervasive. There are situations where even I have to remind myself to stay 'on message': when you don't, it's catatrophic. Well no, but it is certainly embarrassing because, face to face, people see right through you. That doesn't happen on TV, which is where most people get their 'news'.

What kind of a broad based movement would turn back such a tide? Or is this one for individual action?

25 October 2006

things to like about Laurie Oakes

His name is Laurie Oakes. Why is he so amazing? Because he writes stuff like this (from today's Bulletin).
  • "The Australian Prime Minister, as usual, echoes what is being said in Washington."
  • "If these catastrophic consequences come to pass, the architects of the Iraq war, not its opponents, will be to blame."
  • "Howard would like us to rule off the book, and forget how we got into the Iraq mess in the first place."
  • "The Iraq exploit was a bad idea badly executed, and Howard was in it up to his neck. He used to boast that Australia was no mere follower, but actually had a key role in planning the operation. He cannot avoid responsibility for what is now increasingly recognised, even among conservative commentators and Republican politicians, as a disaster."
Yes, yes, yes. Do not let Howard get away with this. Chateau VVB marched with many other middle-type Australians, and got vilified for it, because we knew the war was wrong. To be fair, we didn't know it was going to be so comprehensively stuffed up. And having spent a few years in some places equally repugnant to liberal western values as Iraq - try Burma - we wondered why Iraq? Ha ha.

And something that always intrigued me was how Australia's participation in the COW was represented in news reports. The European news reports at the time of the invasion were all about the US, UK, Spain and Poland. Makes sense. But there was no mention of Australia at all, even in US and UK reports as I recall, whereas here of course we got the full government-mandated and officially endorsed line both direct from (insert disgusting but accurate characterisation here) and their paid lackeys in the News Ltd press about our key role. And there was no doubt that Howard was being, er, less than frank, when he said no decision had been taken to join in the invasion.

Speaking of News Ltd, what would you give to see the Oakes line in one of their papers? I'd almost reinstate my sub to The Australian for that.

24 October 2006

we can't be beaten

You will remember this old Rose Tattoo anthem, with Angry Anderson and the late Pete Wells ripping it up - a paean to suburban strength. "If you want to be in my gang, stand up with me, We'll start a revolution, and make the streets free."

It's as simple as that. Well, not really, but the Tatts were great and whatever they meant in this, it was a song, eh?

It's not so simple when it's other people intent on "making the streets free", in this case, the 'hard men of the right' making the street free for their view of Australian history. This, from today's Crikey:

Bishop a reluctant soldier in the history wars

Guy Rundle writes:

What’s behind education minister Julie Bishop’s recent blundering interventions in various debates? Having played the good cop in the recent history summit, Bishop then name-checked (and then removed) a reference to Chairman Mao in a speech on curriculum, and then wandered into a fight about teaching Jerry Springer in Victorian English classes.

Word is that Bishop has been told to toughen up in her conduct of the current culture wars, after what the hard men on the Right see as a stuff-up in the conduct of the history summit in August. The summit was intended as a pseudo-pluralist stack of the curriculum development process – hence the exclusion of every A-list, publicly left-identified historian.

However the pseudo-pluralist bit got out of control. Greg Melleuish’s paper on a "normative view" of history teaching had plenty of prescriptive dictates that would exclude alternative points of view (Captain Cook’s voyages would have to be taught in the context of "the scientific spirit of the Enlightenment" for example – rather than as, say, a part of the expansion of a military/commercial empire) but as far as the right was concerned it overemphasised the multiply interpretive nature of history, with the idea of
looking at historical "snapshots" and "everyday life" in a manner pretty similar to the way the subject is taught now.

The cultural warriors don’t have the slightest interest in reintroducing narrative history, only to have leftie teachers suggesting that it is a 200 year process of social struggle. They want the damned thing nailed down, and Bishop has been told this in no uncertain terms. This sort of stuff-up has happened before – when academic John Carroll was brought in to do a job on the National Museum, and ended up writing a crtical but far more balanced report than was required.

The summit and all the hoo-ha surrounding it has been pure balloon juice. The real fight will come in March next year, when a more elaborate draft curriculum is released. That will undoubtably have a narrow and specific programme for presenting Australia as a consensual, enlightenment-era society fundamentally grouped by religion – rather than as a place shaped by conflicts between class, race and irreconcilable ideas.

As I’ve said before, the reintroduction of narrative history is something that the left (ie materialists) have wanted for a long time – how else to show people that collective action makes sense if you can’t show how the strikes of the 1890s ultimately led to Australian social democracy? So, at the point when the new programme is released it will simply come down to an entrenched fight between those – led by teachers on the ground – who believe that pluralism should hold sway in teaching, and a government determined to dictate an official version of who we are and how we got here.

Now, who gets a bit snakey forever being belted around the ears by our dominant, omniscient masters that Labor is 'beholden to the unions'? 'Thirtysix faceless men' - it still resonates.

So what's the difference between that and Bishop being told to get her act into gear by the 'hard men of the right'. Who are these 'hard men' and by what right are they imposing their particular view of how the world should work? Surely there's some grist in this for the bright young apparatchiks - yes, the irony is intentional - of Labor.

Meanwhile, in a parallel galaxy, the 'mums and dads' are being belted around the ears with the supposed wonders of T3 ("that's Telstra isn't it") in a series of advertisments meant to make them feel like they're part of the big bad world of major corporate finance. "Have you heard about T3?" "Yes, there's a special offer."

There is indeed a special offer, for nongs (like your 'umble correspondent, a T2 casualty). Yes, must differentiate T3 from T2. So you end up with a share offer that's part
MegaBank and part Harvey Norman. All around the country, husbands are calling wives, mothers are phoning daughters, "Have you heard about T3?" "F**k off, Australian Idol's on."

21 October 2006

in the year 2525

Actually, in the year 2026. This weekend, The Australian has kicked off a series of liftout magazinettes about Australia's future.

In a moment of utter irony, the intro is by the PM, who has an eye as clearly fixed on the 1950s or maybe the 1890s, as the rest of us might have on the rest of this weekend.

The intro has clearly been written by some poor junior staffer somewhere, because it just limply reprises the dominant narrative of the last couple of decades: "Over the next 20 years, Australia's global competitiveness and success will depend on our ability to recognise and seize our opportunities and to meet emerging challenges." Yawn, how many million times have I read that?

Nothing about households and families there in these market-oriented days, but as a little analysis will tell us that Australia is actually made up of households and families, the message is clear. All households and families must become globally competitive.

So I suggest we all start now. Vision statements, skills audits,
Six Sigma, Business Process Re-engineering, Boston Consulting matrixes, Seven Habits of Highly Globally Competitive Households and Families, you name it, you do it. You do it now.

Ah, but there's a catch. Towards the end of the piece, once we've dispensed with being belted around the ears with market-oriented solutions, we get....wait for it...yes, you guessed it, terrorism. We could still "be fighting the scourge of terrorism in 2026."

What better reason to have you-know-who still ensconced in Kirribilli? After all, he'll only be 87. Oops,
cricket's unlucky number! I think I've inadvertently stumbled on his retirement date. You read it here first, folks.

Have a good weekend. Now, where's that butcher's paper...

20 October 2006

tell me sweet little lies

Well with a title like that there is only one thing this post can be about, eh? Yes, you are correct gentle reader, it's the ongoing perfidy - no, actually the ongoing elevation of politics above the national interest - of our beloved Australian government - or, the Howard government as it prefers to be known.

When I saw
this headline today, I thought, "ah, alert and alarmed. Too much shit going down - media consolidation, Iraq invasion not going so well, people starting to ask difficult questions about AWB - time for a little something to keep the populace uneasy and, more to the point, distracted."

On the money, I thinking.

And then tonight, I read in today's Financial Review - and how long is it for this world** - a thoughtful piece by Scott Burchill of Deakin Uni. In discussing recent moves to censor books that are not consistent with the received wisdom of the government, Burchill mentions a book, Power and National Politics by one Paul Gilby, which it seems the Minister for Education (f**k me, what a misnomer)
wishes to ban. Sorry, article not available on line.

According to Burchill the Minister, one Julie Bishop, selectively quotes Gilby to misrepresent him as an unardorned apologist for Islamic aggression and also a self-hater, something which apparently goes with stating any misgivinsg about the Iraq adventure. In so doing, Burchill asserts that "Bishop is greatly concerned by the book's suggestion that ' the Howard government is deliberately using the threat of terrorism to keep Australians fearful and thus supportive of government policies and actions.'"

Most fortunately, and also saving me from the tedium of googling a suitable reference, Burchill goes on to quote
H. L. Mencken, thus: "the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary".

Not much to add really - we all know he does it, it's worked a treat for over 5 years. Over at
Road to Surfdom, the indomitably optimistic are sniffing a change in the air. Let's hope they're right. Let's also hope that the (insert obligatory offensive description here) can't sink any lower. Although I have to say, on past performance, that's a faint hope.

**And, btw, how ironic that we should read such unhelpful and, dare I say,
unAustralian commentary in a Fairfax rag? Because it'll be gone soon enough, eh?

More later.

19 October 2006

takin' care of business

Start with the end in mind, is one of Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. A suggestion that v v b might well bear in mind, except for the fact that v v b just blogs and publishes, rather than going away, drafting and polishing and thinking about the end, before the 'go' button gets pressed. But it's Covey and his ilk that concerns us tonight, and indeed exactly how effective we might want to become.

Here at v v b we're endlessly fascinated by the world of leadership and management, or actually make that worlds, plural. We've done some training and an awful lot of reading - and a lot of awful reading - some of which has stuck and some less so.

The prompt for having an online rumination this time came from last week's Boss magazine. In particular there was an article about the corporatisation, for want of a better term, of raising kids. It pointed to both parents working, increasingly longer/more intensive hours and the trend towards outsourcing many of the traditional parenting functions to paid, organised activities. Nothing new there as I have certainly read several similar articles in the past. One interesting element in the article was a perceived trend towards ensuing kids obeyed authority. This was ascribed to concern amongst some parents about declining moral standards, which some parents sought to counter by enrolling children in "authoritarian religious" schools: this from a book, "The War for Children's Minds" by Stephen Law. Law apparently comes down strongly in favour of a "truly liberal approach", wherein kids are encouraged to critically evaluate morals within a rational framework. I know one reader at least will be whipping out to get Law.

In the end the article doesn't come out with any amazing insights, unless you count "a healthy democracy needs citizens to judge independently", within the current environment where democracy is under threat. Go Barnaby, you good thing...

Most of the rest of Boss is devoted to interviews with various successful business people as well as the four current female secretaries of government departments in Canberra. That article provides no blinding insights, particularly to anyone who's spent any amount of time in the public service. The conditions are more conducive and relatively transparent selection procedures do, on average, reward merit.

There's a knock-off piece on alpha males and a relatively interesting one on why people with scientific and engineering qualifications seem to rise to the top. This is put down to better understanding of scientific method, ability to project manage at a large scale and long term, and a prediliction to logic and systems thinking. I would conur with these broad findings from my experience of working with people from that sort of background.

Hanging about with people with these sorts of backgrounds is always mind blowing as they seem to be able to keep evertyhing in mind, get it all in a conceptual framework and then work through to conclusions seemingly without effort. Without having the actual training or experience, it's a matter of look and learn I guess, but that's very second best.

One thing that often strikes me about these types of articles, and perhaps even moreso the books on leadership and/or management, is the implicit suggestion that there's a simple mantra, maybe even one single thing, that you need to do to become successful. Such an assumption of course flies in face of reason and experience, or call it common sense if you will. But while I find myself drawn to continuing study of the genre, I try to remember that it's all cumulative. Keep reading, keep practicing, keep thinking.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...someone said to me today if Beazley had had the guts to oppose the invasion of Iraq at the time, then:
(a) Labor probably would have taken a bigger hit in that election;
(b) but they were never going to win it anyway; and
(c) he'd be looking pretty good now.

Benefit of hindsight, or something else?

Well, we started with the end in mind but ended up with a different end. Because we are not a scientist. And isn't "Boss" a wanky alpha-male name anyway?

18 October 2006

the white right stripes

Des Moore, Director of the Centre of Public Enterprise and tireless campaigner for all things economically neoliberal, especially labour market flexibility, is nothing if not consistent. He has a letter in today's AFR repudiating Treasurer Costello's recent claims about the tax burden in Australia which concludes, "But the fact remains that the present coalition (sic) is responsible for Australians now bearing the highest tax burden in our history." I assume he means the Federal Coalition.

While the letter does mention state taxes it also confirms the view, held by everybody except Treasurer Costello, that the GST is a federal tax.

With friends like these, as the old saying goes. What a shame that some of his likeminded ideological warriors ( no names, no pack drill as they say) weren't at least so intellectually consistent and honest. I may not - well, I don't - agree with many of his views that I would characterise as unduly hard-line, but credit where it is due.

I have work to do, so that's tonight for cherrypicking.

Oh, almost. My ABC is on in the background and they've just announced the Glasshouse. Time to turn off. I may value my ABC in a way that the government does not, but the Glass House is about as funny as a fart in the bath. Some of the guests can be entertaining, the hosts need strangling.

16 October 2006

Iraq: the art of the long view

I've got a mate with whom I used to catch up for a beer or five every few months, until he became a tree-changer a couple of years ago. One of the last times we got together was just after the (insert obligatory offensive description here) PM eventually admitted that Australia was going to war in Iraq.

We'd barely taken our first sips of beer than I was into it, condemning this decision for all I was worth. As my friend of is generally like-minded persuasion to me, ideologically and politically, I was dumbstruck when he said he supported the invasion.

He then went through his reasoning. He had followed instances of Muslim attacks against the West since Lebanon in 1982 and including Mogadishu, Bali and the USS Cole as well as the World Trade Centre. His view was that there was clear evidence of a widespread, long-running campaign that had to be stopped by, if possible, a single action that would convince those Muslims of extreme views (call them Jihadists or whatever) that the West was serious about defending itself.

Tonight he sent me
this article by Bernard Lewis at Princeton which, as he says, sums up his views but with a much clearer and more comprehensive historical perspective. It's certainly to my mind a well-argued piece and not extreme in any way. Just puts the case and says, unless we demonstrate more strength and persistence, eventually we will be overcome.

I can see its point, respect its research and analysis but still find it hard to agree with overall. Does it conflate the objectives of moderate Muslims with the extremist few? (And in any case, how many are the few)?

Iraq has muddied the waters of the argument. The invasion was bungled (well, post Mission Accomplished anyway) and now it is certainly true that should western forces leave, the bloodbath will escalate. Makes it hard morally to abandon the Iraqis although it also seems that most want us gone.

As a thought experiment, I wondered what might have happened if the US and UK and other nations had rationalised the invasion in other terms. Using the arguments laid out in the article was not on: it would have been tantamount to a declaration of war on all Muslim nations. I still think securing access to oil was a principal factor and using that as an excuse wouldn't have washed, either.

Concentrating efforts in Afghanistan, rather than leaving that job 'half-done' and moving on to Iraq, may have been a better move. That said, Afghanistan has proved remarkably impervious to western 'control' in the past, so finding an exit strategy that left the country mostly in friendly hands would not have been simple.

A few brief exchanges of e-mail with my friend tonight show up the complexity of the arguments. He is not keen on use of force as a first resort and only came to his position on Iraq with difficulty. He is certainly no supported of the current Australian government. The current imbroglio...well, how do we exit with some dignity without consigning an even greater number of Iraqis to a dreadful end?

video killed the radio star

Mere words can't express my relief at reading today that some people think that the principal use for mobile phones is to talk on them. Not to make videos; not to play games; not to watch TV, for crying out loud.

I was getting to think that I was the only one who wasn't spending all day staring at their mobile to watch the cricket.

Of course, it's a little more complex than that - as always. Firstly, the applications. As I recall, the massive investment in the 3G technology caused a few companies to go bust because there wasn't the uptake expected. Was it because the downloads were too slow for the truly smitten? Or because watching cricket on a screen 2 cm square really isn't all it's cracked up to be, regardless of download speed? Now we have Telstra's nextG (possibly Nextg or maybe even neXtG, I can't be bothered looking) which promises some new level of experience. But it'll still be a very, very, very small cricket ball on a 2cm square screen.

Taking videos. To my mind, nothing but clever marketing. What would a bunch of pickled 2-somethings do on their nights out? Why, take videos of themselves and send them to groups of friends engaged similarly. Cool? You bet. Vital? Not really. But everyone's doing it? Certainly. Revenue? Come in spinner.

Second, the technology. For those of us whose hair is a little greyer, whose eyesight a little weaker, who digits aren't all that flexible, operating a mobile is bloody torture. I at last got a work-provided mobile a few months ago. Having had a Motorola in the past that I liked (T28), but my last personal phone was a Nokia that I took ages to get used to, I decided to get another Motorola Ericsson (V3). I hate it. You can't read the screen in anything other than interior light. The keys are all over the place. Intuitive, not. Not to mention all the stuff it does that takes up memory (my memory, that is) that I don't use. I watch offspring no2 texting, two thumbs, doesn't have to look at what she's doing... How do people do that? Her phone is a something else, she picked mine up and was instantly quicker at using all its functions than I was at just making a call after reading the bloody handbook and practising for several hours.

Of course, this could just be me. But the article indicates maybe not.

At a broader level - ie technology in general - it's bloody annoying because for a long time I was staying up with technology. We got a Sinclair Spectrum in 1983, we got our first (XT) PC in 1987 and I taught myself relational databases from scratch.

But sometime during the 1990s the pace of technology picked up and got right away. In part, I attribute this to the old man who was a mechanic for much of his life. He taught me about real things - gears, springs, shims, keyways,
castellated nuts - that you could see and figure out how they worked. I wasn't all that surprised when we gave him a PC in about 1998 and he just couldn't relate to it. Software, you see. Microsoft. It didn't always do what it what supposed to and, when it didn't, you couldn't just pull it apart and see what was wrong. Despite offpspring no 2's best endeavours, he never got it.

I don't know what the answer is. In part, not letting myself be overwhelmed, just putting in some more effort to understanding stuff.

In other news...I was quite taken aback this morning to see that a couple of vvb posts had been picked up in the
Ozpolitics blogfeed. Fame! Because one of the posts was where I had been critical of young Miss Irwin I was expecting some kind of backlash but...nothing. I am drawing no conclusions. Crikey today has some thoughts on that subject that put it in a bit of persepctive and I think there was going to be a media-friendly puff piece on Australian Story tonight. Oops, must have missed it.

15 October 2006

money changes everything

From Freakanomics, it also buys you the time. The exact time, same time, every time.

In thinking about this, I vacillate wildly between "yeah, that's cool, good thinking" to "bugger me, is there anything that corporate sponsorship is not going to stuff about with?" Such as that now the NRL final is on Sunday night, not Sunday arvo (different scale/impact I know, but...).

I'm not reflexively anti-corporations. In fact, some things they share with other big organisations, such as government, is that they can do some spectacularly stupid things. Because despite having an independent legal personaility, they are made up of the sum of decisions of their staff and management, ie humans. And humans do spectacularly stupid stuff all the time. Like whoever made up the Mentos growing nipples advertisement, just to pluck a contemporary example.

Or is advertising so different that we can't speak about it in the same breath?

Such as whoever decided that although the Croc Man is barely cool in the ground, that Bindi hits the airwaves. You heard it here first folks: that voice and the 1950s-family-time-viewing-sitcom-cute-little-kid-phrasing shits me to apoplexy.

classical gas

I have an old Washburn T-bird guitar (no pictures online, will have to take one and post it one day) that suffered a bit of a fall some years ago. I don't play this guitar, it's just having a long holiday. But it had lost one of the volume/tone knobs and so, for no good reason, today I thought I'd pop halfway across town to Jaycar and get one. Knowing that I wouldn't be able to match it exactly, but would have to get three new ones. I showed it to the bloke and asked what they had, mentioning that I knew they wouldn't be able to match it. The originals have markings 1-10 on them and so I made a little joke - a much smaller joke than intended actually - by saying, "I don't care if the new ones don't have numbers but if they do, I'd like them to go up to 11."

He didn't blink, but replied, "Oh no, we don't stock any that go up to 11."

Evidently Spinal Tap isn't the classic everyone makes it out to be.

Well worth the $2 the knobs cost me, and the $10 in petrol to drive there and back.

pleasant valley sunday

Today, things I've found in the first hour of the day in the hard copy, would make good fish-and-chip wrapping stuff, newspapers.

Look, I know it's not on to sneer at what some people put in classified advertisements - unless you make a link to the Maoification and postmodernist relativism and lack-of-standards of public education - but some ads just really suggest themselves. In this weekend's classies, home entertainment section (and indeed, I am at home and being entertained), we find:

amplifier, audio fold quality.

Now, audiophile (which is what they meant, I presume) is not a commonly used word so you'd not expect an enormous number of folks to know it. But if they read their ad prior to submission, what do they think might be getting folded? And how?

Second, this one:

HiFi speaker, English two timer connected to hear

OK, this one was obviously lodged over the phone I'd guess, but what on earth was the original meant to say?

Speaking of "to hear only", I always love the ads for hi-fi gear where the seller says "see working". Hmm, sorry, I can't quite make out the little electrons running thither and yon, but as a potential buyer I would love to hear it working. Think about it next time.

On a different tack entirely, Friday's AFR had a couple of opinion pieces of interest. Lenore Taylor ruminated on the T3 sale, making the seemingly evident point (well, evident to me) that regardless of how independent and whatever Geoff Cousins is meant to be, he's still a government appointee (seemingly forced on the board by the (insert gratuitously offensive description here, Taylor herself uses "vindictive") PM, so all of (make up your own descriptions, you don't need me to lead you) Minchin's protestations about the government giving up control of Telstra to the market are just hot air. As indeed most things he spouts are.

Second, a quite reasonable piece from some bloke at the libertarian Cato Institute about happiness surveys. Evidently the Cato Institute sees a threat to its mainstream brand of economics by the rising level of interest in the issues of why, if we're getting wealthier, are we not happier? There's some arguments about why a steady rate of growth leads to satisfaction as people can get more stuff and how, if growth stalls, we start hating foreigners who take our jobs and so on. There's no mention of the inputs to growth in terms of raw materials and there's an assertion that keeping up with the Joneses is a furphy. Which is a bit rich (ha ha) in the AFR Friday edition, whose centre secton is jam-packed with monstrously expensive houses, big cars, holidays to remote locations and, in this edition at least, the latest in golf clubs to make you play like Tiger.

There's also a small snark at happiness theory methodology, in that the people who carry out such surveys have an end in mind and so ask questions which suggest the obvious answers. Not that Cato and co have agendas, of course.

Bah humbug.


Press release gets reported as news, draws totally unsurprising response from vested interest pressure group. Does anyone else get as tired of this sort of 'reporting' as me?

14 October 2006

turning japanese

Via Marginal Revolution, here's an insight into the ingenuity - or perhaps just the plain obsessiveness in relation to design of gizmos - of the Japanese.

everything is wrong

True to form for a government whose every action shows increasing disdain for the public and the nation Warren Truss, brand new cockies' best friend, plays fast and loose with the truth and the democratic process in this report of his comments on the impending Cole Inquiry findings:

  • the AWB blokes are innocent;
  • oh of course, Commissioners are independent;
  • but AWB does a stirling job for the cockies;
  • and the government is clear on all counts;
  • because nobody ever tells us anything.
That we have told them not to tell us.


Crapping on in Canberra feels similarly about this.

bad english

Today's most creative use of the apostrophe:

The particular songs you mention we're interesting to me, because I have a fondness for all of them. I grew up listening to the Beatles from "I Want to Hold Your Hand" to "Let It Be." But I always had an affinity for some of the never-played songs.

Snoop doggy beezer

I have discovered an evidently little-known fact that may be of assistance to the Labor Party in guarding against any accusations that it is anti-American. We know about President Bush's dog Barney, but did we know that the White House is also home to Miss Beazley?

13 October 2006

hold on, I'm comin'

I think tonight's the night we get around to updating the blogroll so I need to leave you all with something to think about. Well not really, but those were the words that came out when I moved my fingers over the keyboard.

And tonight's theme carries on from comments earlier in the week about truth and spin. So, today both Mel Gibson and Paul Hogan reveal the outcome of several weeks strategising and drafting of talking points by their spin doctors, about the best ways of restoring the value of their respective brands. Well, that was really helpful, wasn't it? If it's written down or on some crappy American TV show, it must be true. Just stick to the script, act sincere (oh yeah, you're both actors aren't you, well that should be a piece of cake then) and she'll be apples. Those sponsorships and jobs will come rolling in again.

Meanwhile, the (insert gratuitously offensive description of PM here) has moved to get Iraq off the front page by suddenly taking an interest in the welfare of the client base of his (very) junior Coalition partner. Gotta make hay while the sun shines, eh? Oh, we have too much sun? Oh dear. Solar panels? Never heard of them. And even if I had, coal is better. That's it, let's subsideise all Australian familes - yeah, with at least one breadwinner on an AWA, that's a nice touch - to have a ton of coal on their roof.

Actually, he played down fears. Interesting. Is that because we have to reserve all our fears for Muslims, terrorists, and anybody who generally is not like us, eh?

OK, play amongst yourselves, smoke if you wish, blogroll maintenance here we come.

Update: Blogroll maintenance completed successfully and in the process - well not actually, more because I have the attention span of gnat and am very easily diverted - I found this, on a Sydney Morning Herald blog that was running a piece on which Parliamentarians are like characters in The Simpsons (seems there's been a bit of puerile name-calling going on in Canberra).

Peter Beattie is so very much Troy McClure it wounds me ("you may remember me from such crises as our water infrastructure and Dr Patel").

12 October 2006

human nature

So, if gagging debate on the cross-media lawsis using the Senate power "wisely, soberly and sensibly"...oh, it is. I forgot, it's not about the Australian people, it's about the interests of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. How could I have forgotten.

I mean, what's the bloody point? (Insert gratuitously offensive description of PM here). I didn't vote for him. True.

Instead, human nature. I mean, proper human nature (that is to say, the nature of proper humans). I got invited to a meeting at the last minute a few days ago and for reasons that need not be gone into here, I went. It turned out that I probably didn't need to go, although I picked up some useful stuff, mainly that some conclusions I had jumped to independently about some stuff (yeah, detail, but I give away no details about my work life here...) were correct. It's nice to get some confirmation that something you had more or less guessed at turns out to be right. Anyway, that wasn't the main point I wanted to make...

Rather, given that some bits of this meeting would put bricks to sleep, I started getting some word (or rather project) association going on in the usually uninhabited space between my ears, and so made a whole heap of notes about stuff I really should do. Now, would I have thought of these things if I hadn't had the catalyst or spur, even though it was from something relatively unrelated? It got me thinking about... thinking. This is always dangerous because I have no training in either the neurology aspect or the insert word that describes the process of thinking - hmm is that cognitive processes? - of it. So, no surprise, I never get very far apart from a general wondering. In this case, what was the link that I somehow perceived and how did it come about?

Note 1: I made notes about things I should do, but I haven't done any of them yet. That is another matter entirely.

Note 2: When, in the first post here at VVB, I said it wasn't going to be an academically inclined blog, I wasn't kidding. Heh heh.

The other human natural thingie worthy of a blog (well, as the author...) was a visit today to a company which, unbeknownst (isn't that a great word?) to us, had been through some rough times. The bloke we saw we had not met previously but, in answering some basic questions about the compnay, he proffered a very full and frank summary of the tribulations of the company and how, in his view, they had come about. Maybe people trust folk from government ("and we're here to help you") more than I thought, but it was a very useful bit of info for us. It was all quite calmly delivered despite the fact that he personally had suffered a bit.

I find this kind of honesty utterly refreshing. For some reason I never expect it - are we so habituated to spin and PR? - so it always blows me away when it happens.

Because the alternative is this, from one of the articles linked earlier:
"The last thing that any political leader or party in this country should ever
do is to assume that they have a licence from the Australian people to indulge
in any kind of over-zealous way their ideology or their enjoyment of power," Mr
Howard told a breakfast of business delegates.

Good advice. Why don't you take it and f**k off?

11 October 2006

lost in a lost world

I thought this solution to the education of the young offender who burned the flag was pretty much spot on. It's not often that you get what I, with my warped wishy-washy-leftish world view, would consider a sensible response from the RSL - certainly the old man never expected it - but this one fits the bill nicely. I heard on radio I think that the RSL has been receiving hate mail. As we seem to be getting a bit of vigilatism starting to emerge in our fair land, I hope no-one gets silly about trying to prove a point.

More predictably, the unctious little slug was posturing on radio this morning about how awful the second nuclear test was, raising the threat and so on. Turns out there was
no second test. Didn't stop him whining tonight about how awful it will be when they do let off a second one, and there in the article is that bloody buffoon of a foreign minister also chanting the speaking points. Hear hear, let's not let anything, certainly not the facts, ma'am, get in the way of trying to keep the populace shit-scared. That's what you were elected for, eh? What, no? You fool. Yours is coming.

10 October 2006

money can't replace it....

Today's title comes from Lucinda Williams' Car Wheels on a Gravel Road which I have played over and over in the car today. It's in my head, who cares whether it relates to whatever I am going to write.

What I should be doing is editing this bloody 60 page report just as I have been doing the last 3 nights. Bugger me it's hard to keep at.

Instead, let's talk nukes. Now, when I open the national daily newspaper - at work, because it's so useless (except for Doonesbury) I don't get it at home any more - and I find the work one of the country's allegedly premier foreign affairs analysts
, I don't expect to find this sort of puerile sensationalism. You can leave that to the Chaser or whoever. It would just be nice to get some sensible discussion about the strategic implications, not the height of his shoes. There's better debate going on in some of the blogs, or shouldn't that be surprising.

FWIW, Australia is not under direct threat (despite the Yellow Peril/Domino Theory graphics on Your ABC tonight). The risk comes from the relationship between North and South, between North and China, between China and Japan. The hot air from the world's nucular policeman and his pint-sized Little Sir Echo, and their various Talking Suits (including the woman who wears big black boots and the buffoon who wears fishnets) is just that - hot air. Despite the urgings of the just-nuke-'em-back-to-the-stone-age bloggers and letters correspondents, that is not going to happen. The US has to tread softly and work within whatever limited stuff the UN can come up with (not forgetting, without going to too much detail, that the UN Security Council is just the sum of its members).

There's also a lot of puerile slanging continuing in blogland, and Catallaxy features strongly (although North Korea is not the topic). I can see that we might be in for a bit of a seachange in blogging as this current examination of on-line personal relationships and how to conduct a debate halfway politely start to play themselves out. And if you think I'm gutless for just mentioning it here, not linking and not going in there for a stoush, well you might be right but I don't care. Gutless is my middle name.

But while we're on blogging, where do some of these people get the time to conduct their online hostilities during the working day? It goes on for bloody hours! I don't have the time to do it but even if I did, I owe it to my employer (and more importantly the poor bloody taxpayer who finances my activiiteis) to not do it. I have started to do a quick scan of some blogs while I have some lunch, but that's it.

I had meant to make mention of the Telstra float the other night, except for this bloody work that I'm supposed to be doing, even as we speak. As Chateau VVB holds some now half-price shares, in Offspring No 2's name, we get the annual reports and so on. I scanned the report quicly the other night (instead of doing this bloody report that I am still not doing) and was quite taken aback by the fear and loathing expressed in their risks section. Such as, if the government doesn't roll over and do all sorts of things, then Sol might leave and then his hand picked crew will leave and we'll be up a well known creek in a barbed wire canoe. I see that John Durie in the AFR picked up on the same stuff today.

What on earth are they thinking? I heard that similar wording will be in the prospectus for T3. Do they want to unload or not? Of course, it hardly matters, because for all the hoo-ha about the Mums and Dads, it will be the institutional investors that pick up the majority, I would imagine.

There's a bloke in my team who does a bit of trading and he's asking me will we go in, given that as current owners we get the 'inducements'. I asked our then adviser whether we should go in on T2 and he said yes, so here we are in the current predicament. I should have exercised some independent thought, compared the float price of T1 and T2 and thought, "blimey, not on yer nellie!" But I didn't. And having been burnt, and understanding just little more of what's going on now, I can't really see that we will. I have mentally written off the $2000 in T2 a long time ago.

Look, I really have to get back to this report, no matter how much fun this is. Let's get Lucinda to take us out....

I Lost It
by Lucinda Williams from the album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road

I think I lost it
Let me know if you come across it
Let me know if I let it fall
Along a back road somewhere
Money can't replace it

No memory can erase it
And I know I'm never gonna find
Another one to compare

Give me some love to fill me up
Give me some time give me some stuff
Give me a sign give me some kind of reason
Are you heavy enough to make me stay

I feel like I might blow away
I thought I was in heaven
But I was only dreamin
I think I lost it

Let me know if you come across it
Let me know if I let it fall
Along a back road somewhere
Money can't replace it

No memory can erase it
And I know I'm never gonna find
Another one to compare

I just wanna live the life I please
I don't want no enemies
I don't want nothin if I have to fake it
Never take nothin don't belong to me

Everything's paid for nothing free
If I give my heart
Will you promise not to break it
I think I lost it

Let me know if you come across it
Let me know if I let it fall
Along a back road somewhere
Money can't replace it

No memory can erase it
And I know I'm never gonna find
Another one to compare
Money can't replace it

No memory can erase it
And I know I'm never gonna find
Another one to compare

09 October 2006

your taxes at work

$55m to 'sell' the GST that was implemented badly and has made bugger-all difference.

$90m to 'sell' the so-called WorkChoices that only the two big employer associations wanted.

$20m to 'sell' the part sale of Telstra that we already owned.

Total: $165m.

You could buy a lot of all sorts of things with that.

06 October 2006

hold on

You might be (holding on, that is) for a while, as the muse is departing again. Crikey today has the story of some blogwars a few months ago that somehow I missed, even though I recall writing around that time that I had noticed a feeling of tiredness, for want of a better word, creeping in around the 'sphere as well as the never-ending left-right baiting. Turns out that some of the baiting got pretty willing, although Crikey's links to some of the threads (at Catallaxy and Club Troppo) are mainly, to my eyes, fairly mild and mostly on topic.

In comparison to when I got described as less than an insect. Obviously that still hurts, otherwise I would't have mentioned it (or put in on the header), although what it mainly does is make me wonder what people like that are like in real life.

All of this is parrtly why I now post less and also why I mainly confine my commenting to places where I feel more 'at home' -
Armaniac's, tigtog's, the Balcony, chez Diogenes, JahTeh and, simply because it provides the best environment for spewing about the PM when I can't help myself, Road to Surfdom. With the exception of the last, for the reason stated, the others tend to be more varied in their choice of subject matter, there's no pseudo-intellectual posturing (and no Karl Popper at all, for which much thanks, bugger me that gets tedious) and the commenting and general to-and-fro is a bit more like real life. I can't imagine that some of those who get all het up at those other blogs carry on like that in the supermarket on Saturday. Or towards their friends and acquaintances at a bbq for that matter.

So that's where we stand on the current state of blogging. I still have a few of the car stories to do but I'll use the film camera to get some fresh shots of the models as the digital just doesn't seem to be up to getting close enough while maintaining focus. Of course the second-hand news does provide lots of material, but only if I remember by night-time what got me interested during the day. And, from now, mostly, if it's kind of interesting and different.

For those few poisnal friends who occasionally drop by, we are all travelling pretty well at Hacienda VVB. Also the next 6 weeks at work are going to be extremely interesting and busy and the team and I are looking forward to a product at the end of that and then, insh'allah, some real stuff to do that might make a difference (c).

Also, the 12 string has had a couple of public airings lately, once at a party and the other Friday at work for some Friday end-of-week drinkies. I really love playing and wanting to entertain people and so far the reception has been good, so I should look for some other opportunities. I'll never master guitar and in fact I can't do as much with the Maton as I could with the old Yammy, but as the Maton sounds so good it doesn't matter so much. It's not so much that people are easily entertained (amused, maybe?) but that it's the simple act of getting up and trying. And once I start I don't hold back, which I suspect comes across in the performance. It's one of those different worlds, and luckily for me I can go into it in some way.

Finally, Pryor at the Canberra Times, for my money one of, if not the, country's finest political cartoonist, absolutely nails the massive communal love-in at the
Quadrant celebrations the other night (here, because I can't seem to upload the image directly, damnitall).

04 October 2006

where's yo' bin?

I's bin workin'. And there'll more to come. Will try to write something sensible at the weekend. However, if that proves just too difficult, I'll just write some usual rubbish. In the meantime, for your edification, here's the original of my gravatar - drawn by someone I worked with back in about 1971. It's quite deep, eh?

03 October 2006

but we live in different worlds

Via the very useful Ozpolitics blog, comes this story of the online game designer's revenge. Never having got into computer games, even when they were very simple (***oh, with one exception), I find it hard to relate to, I guess, everything games-related. But this story quite piqued my interest: it would easy to imagine the state of mind brought on when, late at night when you're running on adrenalin after many hours 'in' the game, all of a sudden it seems to be coming for you.

This story also reflects another of my pet interests, namely all the different 'worlds' there are: that is to say, the individual interests that people have that just don't cross over. Horse racing - never been, would love to go one day, it just seems so different (except for the trend towards young people going just to get drunk). When we were getting a kitten a few years ago, we went to some cat shows. Utterly bizarre behaviour by some people!

*** We had The Hobbit for our Sinclair Spectrum in 1983.
Oh, and I did have a mild fascination for some car rally game in about 1996. So make that two.

02 October 2006

sunshine superman

Read this and weep. Actually, you should shout hooray for one small win against those who would sacrifice any one of us in the 'war on terror'.

In particular, note what Mr Arar has to say about the importance of governance, of the checks and balances that up until recently used to differentiate our democracies from the dictatorships of Saddam's Iraq, North Korea, the junta in Burma and Mugabe's Zimbabwe, to name a few:

"I did not seek revenge. I want better institutions in Canada. That is what I
want. One way of ensuring this is we have to hold those people accountable."

That's what we've lost thanks to Howard and Ruddock. And we're meant to be supinely grateful for such courageous leadership? Puke.

Update: and here's another little insight into how the checks and balances slowly get chipped away by the truly unbalanced. Amongst all the things that get up my snout, efforts by believers in imaginary friends to get the rest of us down on our knees in fear and trembling really get up my snout.

Rare moment of reflection: would I get as righteously indignant if a left-ish government pulled some similar swifty that simply benefited its own members, not society as a whole? Well I'd like to think I would, in other words that my position is based on principles, but I guess we'll have to wait to test it. Mind you, it'll be a long time in hell before we - or anybody we know short of the Kiwis - get an even vaguely left-ish government. After Hawke was elected in 1983 and had started on economic reform, the old man proclaimed it "the best Liberal government we've ever had", and it's been all downhill since then.

01 October 2006


As I am a wishy-washy leftist and part-time insect, it would be perfectly reasonable to paint me as anti George W Bush. I can't remember whether I've ever written about Bush, other than in my perennial whinges about our own 'leader', whose every decision seems to be predicated on whether GWB would like it.

Anyway, in common with an awful lot of other people, I think GWB is a dangerous ideologue whose only interest is perverting the institutions of governance of the USA to implant a hegemonic Republican administration. The lying little piece of excrement of course is on the same mission, but at least in this particular instance he's 'honest' (as in when he always says that his actions serve first of all the interests of the parliamentary Liberal party).

In all of this, what makes me most angry is the perverting of institutions of governance bit. Once a single political party is in a position to do this, the decisions that get taken are more and more in the background, receive little media scrutiny (because subordination of independent media is in fact a big part of the undermining of governance) and hence much less public exposure and understanding.

So it's with some relief, cunningly disguised as outright glee, that I see

Bob Woodward
has turned the sights that once brought down Nixon, onto GWB. Once someone who I imagine has a fair bit of public credibility starts to put the pressure on, then an increasing number of others, who may be lukewarm supporters, might start to turn. Then it all becomes inevitable.

Our situation here in Oz is different. We have no crusading journalists of Woodward's stature. Any others get shot down by the right-wing cheer squad. With the loss of genuine Senate scrutiny - another institution of governance that has been emasculated - we have less ability to get to the truth of this government's decision-making. Laura Tingle had a piece in Friday's AFR about the true figures behind the welfare-to-work legislation that put a somewhat different interpretation on it to the government's prounouncements. But how many people would read the AFR, let alone be influenced?

Anyway, as an apprentice optimist I remain optimistic that eventually the cleansing light of day will be turned on the nasty cabal of ideologues and thugs who currently have the privilege of ruling over us.

And back to GWB for a tick, even
my favourite Tory doesn't like him.

PS: got the NRL final on the teev in the background. It's the lead up to the "two thousand seven" season. He's said it twice. Just something else that gets up my snout.

About Me